Q Three or four years ago, I bought four round-trip tickets on US Airways. One of us was afraid to fly, so we paid the $150 per ticket change fee to reschedule. Three of us finally made the trip. I held on to the fourth ticket, thinking I could persuade my friend to fly, but I finally gave up and sent US Airways the unused ticket, asking for a partial refund or credit. The airline replied that the ticket had no value whatsoever. Do I have any recourse?
A While it may not seem fair that you plunked down cash and got nothing in return, you're out of luck.
The $150 change fee allowed you only to change the date and time of travel. These change fees -- currently $100 for domestic tickets and $200 for international tickets -- do not insure the value of the ticket. You can't pay the fee and get your money back; you must fly somewhere. And because the ticket was in your friend's name, she was the only one who could travel on it, since airline tickets are nontransferable.
Even if the ticket was refundable, US Airways's rules state that it retains value for only one year after the first date of travel.
It's always a good idea to read the airline's "contract of carriage," a legal agreement that applies to airline tickets, before you purchase. Most airlines publish these contracts on their Web sites, or you can request a copy by calling their ticket offices.
We are planning a cruise to Alaska in 2003. What is the best month to travel? Is a week long enough for round-trip cruises from Vancouver? If we can view the scenery from a common area, do we really need an outside cabin? And what is the difference between lower-level cabins, which are often cheaper, and upper-level cabins?
The most common itinerary out of Vancouver is a seven-day Inside Passage cruise that typically stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan in Alaska before returning to Vancouver. Holland America offers this itinerary on six t ships, Royal Caribbean offers it on two ships, and Carnival and Norwegian each offer it on one ship.
Staying in an inside cabin on a lower deck is the cheapest way to go, but it's not one I would recommend. The seas can get rocky between Vancouver and Alaska and the higher you stay, the less likely you are to get sick; I remember one night aboard Holland America's Statendam when nearly half the dining room didn't show because of seasickness. Also, inside cabins can be claustrophobic.
Instead, save money by traveling in late May or early September on an older ship. For example, the rack rate is about $1,090 for an outside cabin in May on one of Holland America's ships built in the early 1990s, while an outside cabin starts at $1,400 on the new Zaandam for the same itinerary in July. Also, some of the best deals are being offered by Royal Caribbean; for example, an ocean view deluxe upper deck cabin starts at $849 per person double for the May 17 Inside Passageway sailing of the Radiance of the Seas.
I'm an ardent senior golfer. Are you aware of golf tours for singles?
Emmett Wright Jr.
The American Singles Golf Association (888-465-3628, www.singlesgolfdc.com), with chapters across the United States including Washington, is "a very social group of single golfers of all skill levels who play a ton of fun golf all around the D.C., Virginia and Maryland area all weekend long, every weekend, as long as the weather lets us," according to chapter president Sharon Geyer. "We also organize numerous golf trips throughout the year to play more fun golf." Last month, the group traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a week for $785. Trips to Virginia Beach, Pinehurst in North Carolina, Carroll Valley Resort in Pennsylvania, Myrtle Beach and Ireland are in the works for 2003. Annual club dues are $70.
You might also want to join a seniors' golf club such as Senior Golfers Association of America (800-337-0047, www.seniorgolfersamerica.com), which hosts tournaments across the country; about 25 percent of its members are single.
Also, Solo's Holidays (011-44-8700-746-453, www.solosholidays.co.uk) in England offers golf vacations for singles in Spain, Greece, Denmark, etc. Prices start at about $790 per person plus airfare for a week-long trip.
Andrea Perr of Vienna recommends Cross-Cultural Solutions for those interested in volunteer vacations (Travel Q&A, Dec. 1). "I was fortunate to have participated in the organization's first program, Project India," she said. "While it is true that these programs can be expensive, you also didn't mention that the expenses are tax-deductible." Info: 800-380-4777, www.crossculturalsolutions.org.
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